Some Things to Consider Before You Sign Up for a Winter Race in the South

I recently heard an ad for a marathon and half marathon in Miami in February. They said something about how great it would be to run in beautiful Miami in February to get a break from winter weather and I started thinking about that. I’ve run several half marathons in the winter months including Kiawah Island Half Marathon (South Carolina) in December, Naples Daily News Half Marathon (Florida) in January, Run the Reagan (Georgia) in February, Ole Man River (Louisiana) in December, Dogtown Half Marathon (Utah) in February, and several half marathons in early to mid-March, on the verge of spring but still technically winter.

While I’ll agree that it was definitely nice to have a break from cold weather when I was in Florida, I still had to go back home obviously so it was just a few days of warmer weather. None of the other states were noticeably warmer than my home state of North Carolina, even though Georgia, South Carolina, and Louisiana are all south of where I live so one might expect it to be warmer (I did). I remember it being chilly and rainy in Louisiana and Georgia and very windy and cool in South Carolina. When I finished all three of those races, I was ready to just go back to my hotel room to take a hot shower and warm up. That being said, Kiawah Island Marathon and Half Marathon is a great race and I still recommend it.

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I was so happy to see the finish line at Run the Reagan in Georgia!

So does that just leave Florida if you want to run a marathon or half marathon in the winter and have a greater chance of warm, sunny weather? First off remember, Florida is a big state and the weather varies considerably from the northern part to the southern part. I was in Naples, in the southern part of the state and the weather was nice enough that we still went to the beach in January. If we would have been in say, Jacksonville, it’s not nearly as warm there as it is in Naples in January but still may be warmer than where you live. Besides southern Florida, you would also have warm weather in the winter in southern Texas, southern California, Hawaii, Las Vegas, and Arizona. All of that being said, if you live in a state in the northeast or another state where it snows a lot and is bitter cold during the winter, it would seem considerably warmer if you ran a race in a state like North Carolina or Georgia. It’s all relative.

However, that’s not necessarily as great as it sounds, especially if you live in a far northern state. Let’s say you live in Michigan and it starts snowing in October, like it normally does there, and by November you’ve acclimated to the cold weather. If you were training for a marathon in Florida in January or February but lived in Michigan, that would mean you would have to run through some pretty rough weather, only to show up in sunny southern Florida, where it may be upwards of 75 degrees for the high on race day. You would not be anywhere near acclimated to that kind of temperature and it would probably feel like you were running in an inferno.

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It was fun getting to hang out at the beach with this little cutie after the race in Naples, Florida in January

There are also the holidays to consider. If you’re running a half marathon or marathon in February, that means you need to get your training runs in for the weeks surrounding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. I’ve done that and it’s not something that was easy to do. Everyone is already busy around the holidays, with the extra shopping, gift wrapping, parties, putting up decorations, extra cooking and/or baking, visiting family members, and all of the other extra things that happen that time of year. When you have to run for 12 miles on Saturday, you’re probably not going to feel like driving 4 hours to see Grandma after that, plus you’ll likely have to figure out where to run and how to squeeze in  another run while you’re at Grandma’s house for the weekend.

It’s not all bad, though. It is pretty nice to get a break from cold, dreary winter weather, even if it is just for a few days or a bit more if you’re lucky enough to spend some time there after the race. Sure, you do have to go back home to crappy weather, but you may appreciate the warm weather a bit more while you’re there and have maybe a bit more fun because of it. Plus, it gives you something to look forward to when you’re outside training in the cold, drab winter weather. If you live somewhere that you just love cold weather and snow, you probably wouldn’t enjoy a “break” from the cold weather and all of this would be lost upon you, so I don’t recommend a winter race for you in one of the states I mentioned in the winter.

I think as long as you come prepared and know what you’re getting into before you sign up for a winter race somewhere that it will be considerably warmer than where you live, it will be fine. In fact, it could turn out to be something you absolutely love and end up doing it year after year. My theory is always, “You’ll never know until you try!”

Have you run a race in a southern state in the winter? If so, what was your experience like? Do you want to run a winter race in a southern state?

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Happy running!

Donna

 

 

Book Review- “Good To Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn From the Strange Science of Recovery” by Christie Aschwanden

When you finish a hard run, do you immediately immerse your lower body into an ice bath, cringing but nonetheless telling yourself you’ll feel better afterwards? Or do you chug a protein shake after a long run to help you recover? Are you a big fan of sports compression clothing? Have you ever wondered if any of the multitude of recovery products and services really “work” meaning they truly help your body recover faster or more efficiently? If so, you might enjoy reading Christie Aschwanden’s book, “Good To Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn From the Strange Science of Recovery.”

As the saying goes, Christie Aschwanden wears many hats. In addition to being an author and contributing writer for dozens of publications, frequent speaker at writer’s workshops and journalism conferences, she is an athlete who has competed on the Team Rossignol Nordic ski racing squad, in addition to being a runner and cyclist. I think her scientific background along with being an athlete herself gives her a distinct advantage in writing a book like this and doing it so thoroughly and completely.

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Recovery (from athletic activity) has become a huge buzz word in recent years, as Aschwanden points out in her book. There are entire centers devoted solely to athlete recovery now across the country. I did a quick search for my area and two places came up; one was an orthopedic “performance” center that offers things like myofascial cupping, dry needling, NormaTec recovery boots among others and the other was a place that called itself a recovery center but offered other services like posture work and pain relief in addition to cryotherapy wraps and NormaTec recovery boots.

But let me back up and start at the beginning of the book. Aschwanden begins by explaining how the book came to be and how and why she wanted to find out all she could about recovery and the science behind it. She makes it clear that many scientific studies on athletes are flawed. As you may already be aware, many athletic studies are based on small groups of men and as such may not be relevant to women or even other men in general. I like how exercise physiologist and author of many scientific publications and the book, “Roar:  How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life” Stacy Sims puts it:  “Women are not small men. Stop eating and training like one.”

Next, Aschwanden tells the story behind Gatorade and discusses hydration and how the balance has shifted to one where athletes are so worried about being dehydrated that they are dying of hyponatremia, which is when you drink too much water and your electrolytes become unbalanced. In perfect succession, she tells the story of how PowerBar came to be and how so many other companies followed suit and the industry exploded with recovery drinks, bars, and other high-protein concoctions. The bottom line that Aschwanden arrives at for both hydration and nutrition is that we’re over-complicating matters. We should be drinking to thirst and have a meal with real food (!) that’s a mix of mostly carbohydrates and protein after a workout. Our bodies will adjust and rebound on their own unless you’re in a multi-day event like the Tour de France and you have a tough race the following day.

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Yes, I love my Zensah compression socks (and tights) and my foam roller!

The next chapters are on ice baths and cryotherapy, infrared saunas, massage therapy, foam rollers, and compression gear including compression boots. Ice baths seem to be a bit complicated in that they may not be a good idea after strength training or if you’re in a building phase of training, but if you’re only interested in short-term benefits, then go for it. There’s evidence that icing may inhibit an athlete’s body’s ability to adapt long-term on its own but other research shows by reducing pain and soreness, icing may allow an athlete to train again sooner, so there are somewhat mixed findings at this point. Once again, Aschwanden concludes that perhaps we’re over-thinking these recovery aids as well since all we really need to do is gentle exercise to naturally promote blood flow through tired muscles and speed up the flow of by-products of intense exercise.

Perhaps the most important chapter in the book is chapter 7 titled “The Rest Cure.” I’ll cut to the chase here and put it simply. The single most important thing you can do for yourself to help with recovery is get adequate and restful sleep. She gives many examples of professional athletes and how they’ve come to realize how important sleep is and have made it a priority in their lives. You can be doing a half a dozen different things to aid in recovery but if you’re not getting enough sleep, nothing else matters. Your body needs sleep to repair and re-build muscles and if you’re not getting enough time for that to happen, your performance will eventually suffer.

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Nuun Rest has magnesium and tart cherry to help you sleep

Aschwanden discusses the multi-billion dollar supplement industry, largely lead by protein powders. Not only are most of these supplements completely unnecessary for most average athletes, they can cost hundreds of dollars in a single month, and even worse many are laced with heavy metals like arsenic and lead. Sure, you can look them up on websites that verify some supplements (although not all of them on the market by a long shot), but there’s still no guarantee that you’re getting what you think you are or that it will do what you think it’s supposed to. We all want to believe drinking a protein shake after a workout will give us that boost to help us be stronger or recovery faster, but the truth is, it’s all such a marketing scam, it’s difficult to know what to trust as solid, scientifically-based information rather than hearsay from a coach, trainer, or other athlete often with little to no scientific background.

The book ends with a discussion on the placebo effect and what a powerful thing this can be. For example, in scientific studies on ice baths, it’s pretty much impossible to fake an ice bath, so obviously everyone in the study that gets an ice bath knows it and the people in the study that aren’t getting the ice bath also know it. However, if you feel in your heart that ice baths have always “worked” for you, whether that means it makes you feel like you’re not as sore the next day or you can work out harder or more intensely the next day following an ice bath, that will effect your judgement and lead you to be biased if you’re in a study on ice baths. She concludes at the end of the book that soothing your muscles and body in a way that makes you feel better emotionally “even if nothing is actually changing in a physiological sense” provides a ritual for taking care of yourself and being proactive in your health, and helps you focus on rest.

Her bottom line seems to be as long as a recovery tool isn’t causing actual harm or costing you large sums of money, who really cares if it’s not doing much for your body in a way that’s been scientifically proven. So if you love to get massages regularly, use compression tights after a tough run, and sit in an infrared sauna once a month, go for it. The mind is truly a powerful thing and often if we think something makes us feel better, then in the end, that’s probably all that matters. I love the quote by Camille Herron who set a world record when she ran her first 100-mile run, who says she recovers by feel and keeps it simple. She said, “I am really in tune with my body, and I pay attention to what I’m feeling.” If she craves a cheeseburger after a marathon or ultra, that’s what she eats. Keep it simple.

One thing covered in the book that I didn’t discuss here is float tanks, which I’ve tried myself. If you want to read my experience with that, here’s the link:  I Tried a Sensory Deprivation Tank and Here’s What it Was Like For Me. My thoughts on Stacy Sims’ book are here:  Review of “Roar: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life” by Stacy Sims and Selene Yeager.

What about you? What recovery tools do you feel are important for you? Are there any recovery aids that you haven’t tried but would like to?

Happy running!

Donna

 

How to Be a Faster Runner- It’s Simple, Run Faster

True story:  when my daughter was on the track team at her middle school, she saw after a while that her times weren’t getting any faster. She ran the 800 and 1500 meter, two notoriously hard distances to run. Getting frustrated, she asked her coach how she could get faster. His response was, “Run faster.” She asked how exactly to do that because she was trying to run faster. He wasn’t able to give her any more information. Ultimately she reluctantly finished out track season at about where she was when she started, but with a bad taste for running with a school team or a group, although she continued to run on her own.

When she was starting high school, I encouraged her to try out for cross country. My daughter had run several 5ks, a 10k, and two half marathons at that point, and she preferred longer distances over shorter ones that track runners do. Although she was hesitant because of her experience with track team, she began running the unofficial morning runs before cross country official practice started. Even though freshmen didn’t have to have a qualifying 3k time like the older kids, everyone that wanted to be on the team ran 3k time trials.

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With my daughter after a run together in the Canary Islands

My daughter ran two 3k time trials before school started and did so well she was invited to run the team’s first off-site race that only 48 kids were invited to (unfortunately she couldn’t attend because we already had plans for that weekend that couldn’t be broken). I should also mention that there are 180 kids on this cross country team, which I’ve been told is one of the biggest in the country, and which also means more competition regarding who is able to attend meets at off-site locations (they can’t take everyone since they only have one bus). So far, my daughter’s times are gradually improving, I’m sure due to several reasons and I have no doubt her times will continue to improve over the next few years.

I’ve noticed that my own times have also been improving over the last few years, despite the fact that I’ve been running races for the last 22 or so years. I actually got a PR (personal record) at a half marathon in Wyoming this summer, a race that was even at  altitude. Most people would think they were well-beyond reaching a PR after they hit 40, especially if they’ve been running since their 20’s, but I’m proof that that’s not always the case. Miracles can come true.

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After my fastest half marathon in Wyoming

So, how does one improve their running times other than the simple answer of just run faster? As everything else running-related, it’s complicated. Looking at my daughter’s experiences, she has benefited from running with a group that has no doubt pushed her a bit more than if she was running on her own. She has also benefited from running 6 days a week, versus the 4 days a week she was previously running. I know the trails where the cross country team mainly practices and the park is full of hills, twists, and turns, which has undoubtedly made her a stronger, fitter runner. Finally, being forced to stretch with the team after every run has likely benefited her more than the minimal amount she stretched on her own previously.

Examining my own background for the past couple of years, there are also several factors that have likely enabled me to be a faster runner. Looking back at my stats from Strava, it looks like I ran more than double the amount of miles (some months it was triple) during the beginning months of 2019 compared to the first few months of 2018. I ran half marathons in May, August, and November of 2018, and similarly I’ve run half marathons in May and July so far for 2019 but I ran much more in the spring of 2019 than spring of the previous year. By the time 2019 ends, if I keep on track with what I’ve been running, I will have run around 150 more miles in 2019 than 2018.

I changed several running-related things in 2018, most of which worked out to my advantage. You can read about them all in-depth here, but basically, I switched my half marathon training plan from one I had been using for races to go from running three days a week to a different plan that called for running five days a week. I began doing more trail running. I did some heart rate training. I ran a 5k, which I hadn’t done in many years. I switched up my running routes. I tried new running shoes (that one didn’t go so well but I learned what does and doesn’t work for me when it comes to running shoes).

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A not-so-great photo of me running trails

Not everything that happened in 2018 was to my advantage, however. I also developed anemia again. I have a history of it and was able to recognize the signs fairly quickly and get an appointment with my doctor for a diagnosis and begin treatment. Surprisingly this all happened a mere couple of weeks before I ran one of my fastest half marathons in years, in Arkansas. How I managed to run as fast as I did while severely anemic is still beyond my comprehension. I started treatment and was able to start feeling like myself after a few months, and my sub-2 hour half marathon streak continued at the half marathon in Delaware in May of 2019, and that was topped with my PR at the half marathon in Wyoming in July of 2019.

Another important thing I did that I believe had a part in my PR was I hiked all over Peru at very high elevation in May just after my race in Delaware. As I mentioned in my post, Is Hiking in the Mountains Good Cross-Training for Runners?, I truly believe that those two weeks were enough to boost my red blood cell count and give me a bit of an advantage when it came to running. I referenced a paper in my post that states that two weeks at high elevation is enough to get your body to start producing more red blood cells, which helps you deal with the elevation better, and those lingering benefits of having more red blood cells can last a couple of months. I was also at high elevation in Wyoming in July but not as high as I was in Peru so I’m not sure if it was enough for my blood to be effected or not.

OK. So I have several things that I changed in 2018 that continued into 2019:  changing my running routes so that I wasn’t running the same path more than once a week, changing my half marathon training plan to go from running three days a week to running five days a week which also meant I increased my weekly mileage, and occasional trail running. I also have the extra boost from hiking at high elevation in May of 2019 which may have effected my race time in Wyoming in July.

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Hiking in Peru

Now let’s see how all of this translates to numbers. In 2017, I ran three half marathons, all of which were over 2 hours (although the last one was by less than one minute over). In 2018, my race times for the half marathons in May and November were sub-2 hours (1:59:51 and 1:57:31) but my finish time for the race in August was 2:01:06, which I attribute to an uphill literally at the very end of the race and I of course struggled with. In May 2019, my finish time was 1:58:34 and in July 2019, I finished the half marathon in 1:53:00. I would say all of the changes I made in 2018 are definitely working to my advantage.

Back to the original question of how do you get faster as a runner, the answer seems to be (at least in the cases of my daughter and myself) by increasing your weekly mileage, run with others that may be slightly faster than you, add in some trail runs, vary your running routes, and if you’re able to visit a high elevation place (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming would all be great places within the US) for a couple of weeks or more, do so. You may notice I didn’t even mention speed work. Of course doing speed work is important to get faster. However, for me, I was doing speed work prior to 2018 and I continued doing speed work after that, but for me that alone wasn’t enough to get faster. I needed the other changes as well to see faster race times.

Everyone is different, too. What works for one person may not work for another. Experiment with making small changes and see if that seems to make a difference. If you start to feel like it’s too much and you’re not recovering from your runs, back off. Likewise, if one thing just doesn’t work for you, cut it out of your routine and move on to something else that might work.

What about you all? What changes have you made in your running routine that have made you a faster runner?

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

 

Preparing for a Destination Race or Racecation

As you all may or may not know, I love to combine running and travel (hence the blog name if you were wondering). Out of the 48 half marathons (in 46 states), 1 marathon, 10k, 10 miler, 15k, and three 5k’s I’ve run over the years, only the 5k’s, 10k, and 15k have been local. I’ve traveled more than 2 hours from my home to every single other race and for most races I traveled far enough that I needed to spend the night before the race. That means by now I’ve found what works and what doesn’t work when traveling to a race, at least for me.

I’ve previously published a post on What’s in my Racing (Running) Bag? but there’s so much more to preparing for a destination race or racecation than just what to bring. As I also mentioned in this post on packing a bag for a race, it’s huge if you don’t have to check your bag with the airline if you’re flying to a race. Not only do you save money, more importantly you save time by not having to go to physically drop off your bag before your flight (just go straight to security then your gate) and wait at the baggage carousel after your flight, and you save yourself the stress of worrying about what to do if your running clothes don’t make it to your destination on time.

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From a recent racecation to Delaware, one of the few races I’ve driven to in recent years instead of flown to (but it was far enough we spent a few days there).

Even if you absolutely have to bring those four pairs of shoes, 5 dresses, and other clothes that you’ll probably only end up wearing half of and you do end up checking your bag with your airline, you can wear your running socks and shoes and the shirt you plan on racing in so at least you’ll have those things if your bag does get lost. Or another option is to put all of your racing gear in your carry-on bag and make sure the bag is small enough that it will fit under your seat on the plane so it doesn’t get gate-checked. This includes your running watch, belt, armband, earbuds, sunglasses, and hat or visor in addition to your shirt, sports bra, shorts or pants, and socks.

I also highly recommend running with your own hydration during the race if it’s going to be hot and/or a long distance (half marathon or longer). Honestly, I’m surprised more people don’t do this at races. I assume just about everyone trains with some form of hydration so why wouldn’t you want to run the race using what you train with? I guess maybe not everyone trains with hydration, though, or maybe they just don’t sweat as much as I do and don’t feel like they need to run with it. Also, if you run with gels or Gu be sure you put them in your liquids bag (each person is allowed 1 plastic quart-sized bag) because TSA counts them as liquids.

If it’s going to be cold the morning of your race, pack something you can discard just before the race starts like a mylar space blanket or old sweatshirt you needed to get rid of anyway. Those cheap thin gloves (Target sells them) and a Buff are great and barely take up any room in your carry-on and you can easily store them in a pocket or running belt when you warm up during the race. I recently heard of someone taking hand warmers to a cold race start and thought that was brilliant. Believe me, I wish I had this advice at some of my previous races where I was shivering in the cold waiting for the race to start. My advice is if you even remotely think it might be cold or chilly on race day, for instance if you’ll be running in a place where the weather often changes quickly, pack gloves, a warm hat, Buff, and tights or capris. I’ve been burned by summer races in the mountains before and have learned the hard way to do this.

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See the person running in capris that were bought the day before the race in Montana because I didn’t come prepared for the cold morning start? That’s me!

On the flip side, if you’re going somewhere that it will be hot the day of your race, there are some special considerations to take into account. As I mentioned earlier, I recommend racing with your hydration of choice (I like Nuun), which is even more important on hot days. If you’re prone to chafing, be sure to bring your preferred product to prevent chafing (I like Body Glide, which you can find at local running and outdoor stores). I’m also a big fan of Arctic Cool products and their “Hydrofreeze X” technology. You can find athletic shirts, shorts, capris, hats, headbands, and cooling towels on their website and can also purchase bundles of products to save money.

After the race, if you plan on hanging out at the race finish, put a clean shirt, sports bra if you’re a woman, and pair of recovery sandals or other comfy shoes in a gear check bag and you’ll be glad you did. Sometimes races will offer free post-race showers at a nearby YMCA or hotel, which is fantastic if you have to check out of your hotel or Airbnb before you can get back to take a shower after the race, or if you just want to stay close to the race finish for a while before heading back. As long as you plan for this when you’re at home packing for the race, you’ll be prepared. I have a small towel that I bought in Peru that I wish I would have bought for travel years ago. It’s small enough that I can stuff it in my bag without it taking up much space at all but it’s big enough to dry off with after a quick shower. In short, these small, quick-drying towels are perfect to bring along to a racecation.

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My racecation in Alaska was one to remember for sure!

Traveling to a race doesn’t have to be stressful as long as you plan and are prepared before you ever leave your house. Make a list of all of the things you’ll need for your race plus everything you’ll need before and after the race, and check them off as you pack them. Start packing a couple to a few (depending on your stress level for this kind of thing) days before you’re supposed to leave to make sure you don’t forget anything. It’s also a good idea to lay out your “flat runner” on the floor so you can visualize everything you’ll be running with.

Have you traveled to a destination race or racecation? If so, do you enjoy them? If you’ve never traveled for a race, why not?

Happy running (and travels)!

Donna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Packing for a destination race

Race Medals and What to Do With Them

Race medals didn’t use to be a thing when I started running races, way back in 2000 and I ran my first 5k. In fact, I didn’t even get a medal for running my first, second, third, or even fourth half marathon. My first race medal was at the Philadelphia Distance Run in 2004 and since then I received medals at most of the races after that, although there was the occasional race that didn’t include medals in the early 2000’s.

Now it seems like everyone who finishes everything from a 5k to a marathon and every distance in-between gets a medal. Until more recently medals were only given to marathon and sometimes half marathon finishers, but now it’s not uncommon to receive a medal after a 5k, especially if it’s a large event. Small, local 5k’s may or may not give medals to all finishers. Sometimes a medal will be given to age-group winners only at small races.

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My largest medal- it’s bigger than my palm spread out!

I’ve seen all kinds and sizes of medals over the years. I even have a medal that seems to be made of some type of foam material that I got at the Color Vibe 5k, a “fun run” that I ran more for the experience than anything because it was my first run of this type. The most interesting medal I have is the one from Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, Virginia. It’s a functioning bottle-opener so it’s not only cute but it’s useful too (well it would be if I actually used it).

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My “Bright & Bold” medal from the Color Vibe 5k

Although I’ve only run on average 3-4 races a year, I have been running races since 2000 as I mentioned before (with a lapse between 2001 and 2004), so I have a decent accumulation of race medals by now. I know many runners run more like 7 or 8 races a year (or more), which means they accumulate a whole lot more medals in a year than I ever did. In just a few years’ time, this could mean dozens of race medals. I only have 45 race medals so it’s not an issue of what to do with them but I could see it being a real issue for other people who may have hundreds of medals.

Some people have display racks. My daughter started running when she was in grade school and has accumulated quite a stack of medals by now (she’ll be starting high school this fall), and she has a display rack that’s already over-filled with her medals from races. You can buy these at local art supply stores or easily make your own.

Others give their medals away. Medals 4 Mettle accepts medals earned by runners and triathletes and gives them to “children and adults for the mettle and courage they demonstrate battling cancer, chronic illness, trauma and other life challenges.” All you have to do is remove the ribbon from your race medal and mail it to them and they will take care of the rest. According to their website, over 55,000 medals have been awarded since 2005.

I’ve heard of other people repurposing their medals into coasters, Christmas ornaments, and magnets. All of these things would be pretty easy to do, especially to make magnets and ornaments. This way your medals actually have a use other than sitting in a drawer or on a shelf.

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I have to admit, all of my medals are on a bookshelf in my office at home. I have a collection of books that I was saving for my daughter to read someday and/or re-read them myself, and the medals are on this bookshelf. I also have some other race-related things on the bookshelf, like the trophies I’ve won at races and the printed photo I got at the Missoula Half Marathon in Montana. They’re a nice reminder of all of the races I’ve run over the years.

What about you all? What have you done with all of the medals you’ve received over the years?

Happy running!

Donna

 

Review of Arctic Cool Shorts

I’ve been a fan of Arctic Cool shirts since I received my first shirt in 2017. See my review of the women’s v-neck shirt here. Since then I’ve bought more shirts and I still love them as much as I did my first one. Recently I decided to buy my first pair of running shorts from Arctic Cool. For some time they didn’t offer running shorts, then they only had them available for men. When they became available for women, I knew I had to try them.

From the Arctic Cool website: “It features state-of-the-art HydroFreeze X Technology, a cooling management system that reduces the fabric temperature to cool you down when you need it the most! The short’s design also includes ActiveWick, our moisture wicking technology that pulls sweat away from skin and disperses it throughout the short, keeping you dry and cool. It’s made with fabric that includes 4-way stretch, providing a full range of motion for any activity. The Instant Cooling Women’s Active Short is antimicrobial/anti-odor powering your short to smell fresh and clean after every wash! Lastly, we added on sun protection with UPF 50+ to keep you protected by blocking 98% of the sun’s rays!”

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When I received my shorts in the mail, I immediately tried them on and liked how they fit. They have a fairly relaxed fit just like their shirts, but not too loose either. I also liked the pockets (full-size pockets on the sides, not just a small pocket in the front for a key), which aren’t always in athletic shorts but I appreciate them. Just about the only thing I would change is have a liner in them since I prefer my running shorts to have a liner. The length also seemed just right- not too short and not too long. I’m 5’8″ if you’re wondering.

Now for the really important part- how they performed when I went on a run. For my first run in the shorts, I went for a 30 minute run in 90 degree heat with around 40% humidity. Even though I also have some Arctic Cool shirts, as I mentioned earlier, I purposely didn’t want to run with one, to see how the shorts fared on their own.

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Top part of me post-run:  sweaty, bottom part, not so much!

They fit well and didn’t move around or bunch up between my thighs when I was running. Thanks to the drawstring, I was able to get a snug fit around my waist. They do have a somewhat looser fit, which I found to be neither a pro nor con really. When I got home from my run, I noticed they were only slightly damp around the top part of the waistline.

Normally my shorts are soaked in the front and back when I run in really hot weather, since I sweat a lot when I run. Now, do I think they helped keep me cooler on that run? Who knows, honestly. I do know I felt amazing when I was running, despite the heat, and despite the fact that I hadn’t run in almost two weeks. No doubt I can’t truthfully say it was all due to these shorts, but they certainly must have had some part in it all.

I decided to take the shorts for a spin again for a longer run of 5 miles. It was 72 degrees, so cooler, but also more humid, so not exactly great conditions for running. As before, the shorts felt comfortable the entire run and I found that by the end of my run, only the very top of the shorts around the waistband were a little damp. In contrast, my sports bra, running shirt, and even my socks were so wet I had to drape them over the shower to dry like I usually do after a summer run (normally my shorts are soaked as well).

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Wearing my Arctic Cool shorts on my 5 mile run

Next, I wanted to wear an Arctic Cool shirt along with my new Arctic Cool shorts to see what would happen. I purposely chose a running route that isn’t very shaded and has a couple of long, gradual hills to climb. In other words, I would be working hard on my 30 minute run. It was 91 degrees out with around 40% humidity, so it was pretty much like my first trial run, weather-wise.

This time, I did something a little different, however. I’ve found I get a bit of an earlier cooling effect with the shirts if I dampen (not soak) the part around the collar with the HydroFreeze X Technology. I did this with the waistband on the shorts, just dampening a bit but not running them under the faucet so they were just barely damp around the waist. Similar to the shirt, I immediately felt the shorts get a bit cooler. This is a subtle effect, so don’t expect to feel like you’ve stuffed your shorts with ice or anything like that.

All I know is my split times for that run were pretty darn good, considering the heat and humidity. After my first mile I felt like my pace was faster than what I should be going since it was supposed to be a fairly easy run and not a speedwork run. However, my second mile was even faster but I still felt great. After that, I told myself I really needed to slow down some, which I did for my third mile. Then I started to think about some things.

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Still feeling great after running 3.5 miles in 30 minutes in 91 degree heat!

Sure, I was still sweaty but I was supposed to be sweaty; it was 91 degrees and sunny and I was running at a pretty decent pace. If I wasn’t sweating, I should be seriously concerned because that could mean I was over-heating and possibly headed toward heat exhaustion. Our bodies cool off by sweating and the more you sweat, the more efficient your body is at adapting to the heat and cooling itself down.

No article of clothing in the world is going to make you sweat considerably less, nor should it. It’s hard to say if I was sweating less because I was wearing Arctic Cool clothing or not. I’m not sure how I would even measure that. All I know is my shirt and shorts were just barely damp when I got home from my run, while my sports bra, underwear, and socks were all soaked from sweat.

If there’s one thing I do know for sure because I have proof of it, it’s that Arctic Cool clothing wicks sweat away like nothing else, so you won’t have to peel off a soaking wet shirt or shorts after a run! Arctic Cool claims “the technology actually moves moisture away from the skin and circulates it through the fabric, keeping you cooler, longer.” That’s not to say you won’t sweat when you wear their clothing, but at least for me it feels like I do stay cooler longer when I wear their shorts and shirts.

If you want to try Arctic Cool clothing for yourself, you can buy their products here:  Arctic Cool.com. They offer package bundles where you can order multiple products at a discounted price. Feel free to ask me any questions about their products!

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

 

 

Book Review- Run For Your Life: How to Run, Walk, and Move Without Pain or Injury and Achieve a Sense of Well-Being and Joy by Mark Cucuzzella, M.D. with Broughton Coburn

I first heard of Dr. Mark Cucuzzella on the Marathon Training Academy podcast, which I believe he’s been a guest on at least a couple of times. When I learned Dr. Cucuzzella had a book out, I knew I had to read it. In true form (at least based on what I heard of him on the podcast), Dr. Cucuzzella’s book is extremely thorough.

Run for Your Life is divided into three parts:  Before the Starting Line, The Body in Motion, and Running is for Everyone. Within each part are five to nine chapters. Including the Appendices, Acknowledgments, Notes, and Index, this book is 349 pages so it’s not a quick read. As you might guess, the first part of the book gives some background information behind running in general and the history of humans and running with a multitude of information about walking and the foot. The second part of the book, the real meat of the book, covers everything from nutrition, which Dr. Cucuzzella is a huge proponent of nutrition as medicine, to the importance of recovery in running, and the prevention of injuries. The third part of the book covers what an important place movement and exercise has for people of all ages and walks of life.

Going back to part one, Dr. Cucuzzella spends a huge amount of time covering sitting, walking, shoes, and the foot, which makes sense because modern humans spend so much time sitting and wearing shoes. I don’t think it’s news to most people that sitting for hours on end is bad for our health in general but many people may not realize there are other options out there. Dr. Cucuzzella gives several options to sitting for long periods such as working at a standing desk to the simplest but often over-looked idea of taking standing or walking breaks every thirty minutes. He also describes how he suffers from hallux valgus, a deformation of the big toe caused by repeatedly wearing shoes with a pointed toe box, and he describes in detail how he was able to correct this condition. No surprise that he’s a big proponent of minimalist shoes. There are also drills in the book specifically for strengthening your feet.

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Part two of the book begins with proper running form and includes drills for developing efficient running form. As I mentioned earlier, there is a large section devoted to nutrition including some recommended lab tests including basic ones and second-level tests for higher risk groups. In the section on recovery, Dr. Cucuzzella talks about how exercise can effect our hearts in a negative way if we don’t allow enough time for rest and mentions a couple of apps to measure heart rate variability (HRV), which is something not really talked about much.

There are some basic tips and general information in part two about running a marathon and racing in adverse conditions. One tip that many people may not realize is when you’re running in the heat, it’s a good idea to use sunscreen sparingly because it beads the sweat, which rolls off without evaporation but it’s the act of sweat being evaporated from your body that cools you. Dr. Cucuzzella also recommends some specific gear for running in the rain and/or cold weather. Another important section of part two is about the therapeutic mental benefits of running, something often over-looked by people especially those that aren’t runners. Part two ends with a discussion on some common running injuries and how to prevent them.

Part three begins with information specific for women and includes the full spectrum from running while pregnant to the benefits of running for menopausal women. Specific information related to children and running follows, then information about older people running. Dr. Cucuzzella dispels the myth (do people really still believe this?) that running is bad for your knees and joints with his notation of Paul Williams’ study at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that found no increase in osteoarthritis or hip replacement even for runners who participate in multiple marathons a year. In fact, there are a multitude of references to the medical literature on the subject of running and exercise throughout this book if you’re the kind of person that “needs” to have scientific references for you to be properly informed.

In addition to a slew of scientific references, this book is filled with drills and exercises, either for warm-ups, for strengthening, or recovery. There is a website runforyourlifebook.com that includes a wealth of information. Under the resources tab, you can find videos on mobility and stability exercises as well as other things like kid-specific information and links to the Freedom’s Run Race in West Virginia that Dr. Cucuzzella is a co-director for. Finally, there are training plans for the 5k, half marathon, and marathon that seem pretty straight-forward for beginners or newish runners.

So, after all of that, what did I personally think of this book? Well, I think it’s an excellent tool for any newbie runner because of the wealth of knowledge included. A more seasoned runner can also benefit from reading this book, but they likely wouldn’t find much of the information new but perhaps good reminders of things they’ve heard before but had forgotten. I personally enjoyed this book and the way the information is presented.

Have you read Dr. Cucuzzella’s book? If so, what did you think? Do you think you would be interested in reading it if you haven’t read it?

Happy running!

Donna